Six of the best cocktail bars in Toronto, Canada

MAHJONG BAR

Image: Supplied

Image: Supplied

Fronted by a glowing pink bodega, this blink-and-you'll-miss-it spot is a beautifully curated space with high ceilings, low light and an 11-metre tropical Asian mural to create a truly sanguine ambience. Along with the thoughtfully crafted cocktail list, there are 10 taps of beer and cider as well as cans of wine and tallboys in the fridge. The food menu is centred around Chinese and Asian small bites such as Chengdu wontons stuffed with pork and prawns or braised beef with Shanghai noodles, bok choy and Sichuan chili oil. See mahjongbar.com

BAR CHEF

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Founded in 2008 as an ambitious collaboration between cocktail maestro Frankie Solarik and Brent VanderVeen, this upscale, dimly lit haunt is the ultimate spot for a date or pre-show drink. The emphasis is on using only the finest, freshest ingredients; artisanal spirits, house-made bitters and an extensive molecular approach that would do Heston Blumenthal proud. The business philosophy was born out of putting the sort of love and care into crafting a drink that a top chef would put into creating a dish at a renowned restaurant. So please don't order a mango daiquiri with a straw. See barchef.com

BAR RAVAL​

Image: Supplied

Image: Supplied

Spearheaded by Grant Van Gameren, who rose to fame as co-owner and head chef of the Black Hoof restaurant, and Chris Brown of fine dining establishments Splendido and Avalon, Bar Raval is a beautifully unique space with swirling mahogany-wrapped decor that is vaguely reminiscent of the work of Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi. Artfully fashioned cocktails are a given here, but it's also about the pintxos, a kind of miniature tapas. Specialities include the smoked lamb belly, tuna pickle Gilda or foie gras and orange. Larger sized, more traditional tapas are also available. See thisisbarraval.com

PRETTY UGLY

Image: Alexa Fernando

Image: Alexa Fernando

 Pretty Ugly has what is arguably the most inventive cocktail team in the city, led by bar manager Evelyn Chick. It is known not only for its unbeatable ambience but also for its unique approach to sustainability. Many of its syrups and flavourings are made from what would normally be considered bar waste. Its non-alcoholic cocktail menu is also renowned, with flavours said to be hard to distinguish from  their alcoholic counterparts. It's known as their Placebo Menu, an idea born out of the desire to remove the stigma from ordering non-alcoholic drinks while out for a night on the town. See prettyuglybar.com

FIGURES

Figures, in the heart of trendy Yorkville, is an upmarket resto lounge with a penchant for all things superhero. A vintage toy shop in front sells action figures, the wallpaper is fashioned from old comic pages and a neon Pac Man adorns the ceiling. Cocktails such as Empire Did Nothing Wrong are served with Storm Trooper bitters in glasses shaped like a Darth Vader helmet.  Japery aside, the fit-out is actually surprisingly tasteful. Standout mains on the food menu include the black truffle gnocchi and slow-cooked oxtail. For a light snack with your cocktail, try the hot and cold popcorn with chilli and bourbon caramel. See figuresto.com

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SHAMEFUL TIKI ROOM

Image: Supplied

Image: Supplied

There really is nothing shameful about this tiki bar in Parkdale. From the thatched roof bar to the drinks served in wooden tiki mugs, this is a great example of not just making kitsch work, but straight out rocking it. Classic cocktails include the Zombie, from Donn Beach circa 1934, with Appleton Signature Blend, Lemon Hart, Navy rum, lime, bitters, grapefruit and spices, and the Scorpion, a blend of orgeat, lemon, brandy, rum and orange. The venue also hosts regular fun events such as retro dance parties featuring live go-go dancers and more. See shamefultikiroom.com

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